Uncertainty. Shame. Identity. Jason Gray hasn’t shied away from exploring these themes in his music before, but in the song “Where We Go From Here” there’s a particularly tender image that’s hard to shake: God, bending down to his broken beloved, saying “lift your head, I’ll dry your tears / and then I’ll show you where we go from here.” There, at the bottom of the hardest times, is the expectation that something good must come next. That’s our hope. And it’s the kind of hope that runs freely through every song on Where the Light Gets In.
I’ve been a fan of Jason’s music for a long time now, so I suppose that makes me a little biased whenever I write about a new record. For one thing, I’ve seen how he loves his audiences, taking time to listen to fans after a show, no matter how long the day has been. That generosity spills over into compassionate, wise songs that speak the language of pop music, and knowing the care he takes in crafting even his most radio-friendly albums makes me want to keep listening. Sure, Where the Light Gets In is a fun record, but it takes time revealing its true depth, proving once again that catchy songs and lyrical substance don’t have to be mutually exclusive.
Ultimately, these songs are a testament to the holy mystery of healing.Jen Rose Yokel
This is unashamedly the most pop forward and straight up joyful record in Jason’s career yet, and for good reason. His last record Love Will Have the Final Word was born in the midst of deep pain, and the result was a collection of psalm-like honesty and hope. If that was the cries from the darkness, then Where the Light Gets In is the first light of morning, the first evidence that maybe, finally, every sad thing will come untrue after all.
“Learning,” the opening track, kicks off a celebration, all catchy chorus and textured beats. Don’t feel awkward having this on your summer dance party playlist though. Though it sports an undeniable groove and recalls the many empowerment anthems that dominate the music of summer, “Learning” is a celebration of failure: “If I fall, I win / Every time I get up again / I know that I can’t lose if I keep learning.”
And so it goes… “Sparrows,” built in spacious, layered sounds, is a fresh rendering of Jesus’ caution against worrying, a reminder that we are worth more than many sparrows. “I Will Rise Again,” one of my personal favorites, continues the theme as it builds to a rousing declaration of getting back up against the odds.
There are the ballads too — gentle, thoughtful, and somewhat melancholy moments to honor the pain that comes before the joy. “Death Without a Funeral” is a poetic highlight, co-written with and produced to spare acoustic perfection by Andy Gullahorn. The next time someone wonders where the honest Christian songs are, you can send them this one. Though specifically reflecting on the death of a marriage, this lament for the silent griefs we all experience is written in a way that’s personal and universal, loving and brave.
The title track “The Wound Is Where the Light Gets In” could be the record’s true gem. Musically gentle and lyrically powerful, its refrain is the heartbeat not just of this record, but of Jason’s entire career. It’s an anthem for wounded healers, to borrow a phrase from Henri Nouwen. And it’s an image repeated over and over on this record, this state of being broken down, cracked open, maybe even beyond repair, yet still surviving. Ultimately, these songs are a testament to the holy mystery of healing, continuing the arc started years ago in Jason’s records. Listen to them all and you hear the stories of losers finding identity in Christ, unmasking shame, and learning to grieve and move forward with joy.
This album highlights the work of nine different producers, something uncommon in Nashville records, yet technically necessary to finishing the job. Somehow though, I’d like to think it’s a perfect picture of community meeting in time of need to create something beautiful. Whether it’s Colby Wedgeworth’s slick pop grooves or Andy Gullahorn’s understated yet gorgeous acoustic guitar melody, the pieces manage to fit, and the record is better for it.
If you’re looking for honesty, hope, or even just something fun and optimistic, Where the Light Gets In is well worth spending time with in the long summer days ahead.
Jen Rose Yokel is a poet, freelance writer, and spiritual director. Her words have appeared at She Reads Truth, CCM Magazine, and other publications, and she released her first poetry collection Ruins & Kingdoms in 2015. Originally from Central Florida, she now makes her home in Fall River, Massachusetts with her husband Chris, where you can find her enjoying used bookstores and good coffee.